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Sunil-ThenabaduProfessor Sanath Nandasiri one of the iconic singers ever produced my native Sri Lanka, prestigiously hold the position of current Chancellor of the University of Visual Arts and Performing arts. He was born on 15 February 1942 in Gothatuwa, close to Kolonnawa as the third child to businessman and building contractor, H. M. William Perera, and Dona Amalin Katugampola, a housewife. The parent duo had been staunch Buddhists who had participated in all activities in the family temple. Sanath had revealed that his father could sing well also his brother and sister but did not proceed beyondd singing at home. Sanath may have acquired his singing talents through hereditary affiliations and innate talent. He had completed his primary education from Gothatuwa Maha Vidyalaya thereafter at St. Matthew’s College, Dematagoda for Ordinary levels. Then he had attended Mahabodhi Maha Vidyalaya for Advanced Level and finally at Stafford College to study English. During school times, he had excelled as an athlete as well as a Elle player. He had been a good short distance runner too having won trophies in the 100 meters at inter school level.. Sanath has  had four siblings. where he was the third  It was during the younger days had joined Karunaratne Abeysekera’s “Lamapitiya” as he had shown immense innate talent for arts.This was the solid foundation for him to excel ;later in life as a singer, musician, music director, composer and an enormous play back singer having dominated the cinematic arena from year 1967 onwards for well over three decades .Sanath has won at intervals several awards for his musical compositions in his entire career spanning over six decades.He has the distinction of composing music to the first television serial on national channel “Sandamalige Kathawa”. 

Sanath Nandasiri had first performed om Sinhala Radio at the age tender age of 13 in 1955. During this period, he had got the prospect to work with Madawala S Ratnayake, Nanda Jayamanne, Karunaratne Abeysekera Sanath Wimalaweera.Sanath Had been a music fan had once listened to Rukmali Devi sing a  song” Sepa neha Aho Me Loke”,in the music the sound of the Tabla was very prominently heard. After the song was sung when he had made inquiries from Rukmani Devi about the Tabla exponent it had been revealed as Podi Amaradasa at which time Sanath lamented that he had not even seen a Table., but got very interested learning it . At the age of 17, he began studying the Tabla instrument under D. R. Peiris soon after, where he was Peiris’ first student at this class held a performance at the YMBA Hall in Borella. He then had linked Sanath to his various radio and outdoor programs also getting to participate in radio folk singing programs once a month. In 1960 at the age of 19, Nandasiri travelled to India to continue his music studies which was blossoming to Bhathkande Music Institiute Deemed University. Sanath had affirmed that during his tenure at the university he had learnt a lot about art and music. His teachers at the academy included heavy weights like Ustad Ahamed,Jan Thirakwa,GN Nattu,Ustad Mokshut Ali, Pandit Hari Shankar Misra and Ustad Rahimmuddeen Khan Daga. While in the academy in India, Sanath had composed several songs that appeared on Luknow radio and even in films.He was a sought after student when it came to composing songs for the student societies. Once he had composed a song in the Sinhalese vernacular “Mahada Veena” to which Karunaratne Abeysekera had underwritten the appropriate lyrics.This song was recorded by Khemadasa In 1972, which was included in the Soorya album titled ‘Songs and Rhythms of Sri Lanka’. Further he recorded “Sanda Balanna” and “Gamey Kopi Kade” also composed byPremasiri Khemadasa in the 70s which were well acknowledged popular and widespread. In 1974.Sanath launched his first solo concert ‘Swarna Kundala’ which was later performed for more than 250 concerts many in overseas countries.] In 1979, he recorded his first full album with the same title of his concert “Swarna Kundala” for Gemstone label. This included his popular songs “Kisiwak Nokiyana” and “Egodaha Kandey”. After that he had recorded three major albums for “Singlanka” 1980 and 1981 which included some of his best known songs such as “Eka Yayata Mal” and “Mama Nam Asayi”. In addition, he has recorded songs for films most notably under the music direction of Premasiri Khemadasa. [X] 

Sanath married singer Malkanthi née Peiris on 18 December 1971. He had met Malkanthi during a Vesak drama called ‘Mara Parajaya’ in 1967. They collaborated on songs before and after their marriage. The parents of the duo were staunch Christians and Buddhists. Therefore having a church wedding was not conducive to Sanath’s parents as they were staunch Buddhists.Owing to this issue Sanath had been thinking of a way not to hurt them and so was Malkanthi. Ultimately they had decided to have a church wedding at the Cathedral at Thirmbirigasyaya followed  by a poruwa ceremony included Buddhist type wedding at hotel Samudra and thereafter a home coming party attended by mostly all famous actors and singers in the country but within the restriction of visitors imposed the then government owing to an austerity period.. When their son was born in 1971, he was a normal overweight child  named, Sanjaya Madhava. But the son died after three days Their second child was a daughter, Nishamani Anuradha who was born February 14, 1974. Anuradha, also a vocalist cum musician, is currently back in Sri Lanka with her husband Nirosh after successfully completing his post graduate studies.  

Born as the eldest daughter, Malkanthi has three sisters: Nirmala, Niranjala, Sakunthala and two brothers: Kumar, and Manoj. Nirmala Ranatunga is also a popular singer who was married to a prominent Tabla player Wijeratne Ranatunga.] Nirmala’s daughter Sewwandi Ranathunga is also a singer following mother.Niranjala Sarojani is also a very accomplished singer who was married to late musician cum director at SLRC Abeywardena Balasuriya who died on 26 March 2010 at the age of 63 after a prolonged terminal illness. With the demise of Abeywardena, Niranjala has also refrained from singing as a respect  to late Abeywardena as he had suffered unable to speak during his illness.Younger Sakunthala worked at Veritas Radio in Manila while Manoj Peiris is the renowned Tabla player and musician of Sri Lanka. Kumar had not pursued music unlike the rest of the siblings.Sanath had served very effectively as the head of music at the University of Kelaniya from 1988 to 1992. Sanath had sat for the Part I examination in vocal music and obtained first class at the “Nipun” examination in 1992 becoming the first Sri Lankan to achieve this task to be named ”Sangeeth Nipun”[ ] 

After the birth of his daughter, he started a song concert called ‘Anuradha’ in 1982.  Malkanthi Nandasiri also sang with him at the concert.] In 1998, he started a formal education center ‘Gandhari’ to teach music which is still to date is conducted the responsibility is now shouldered by Anuradha. The institute offers singing and Tabla playing related to the first and middle scholar examinations too conducted annually by the Bhatkhande College of Music, India as well as music related to school syllabus up to grades 6–11.This had been very useful to past and present students.  

In year 2015, Sanath launched the ‘Prathama Wasanthaya’ concert where his daughter Anuradha now also accomplished vocalist also sang with Malkanthi Nandasiri. On 11 March 2018, the concert titled ‘Du Anuradha’ was held at 6.30 pm at Nelum Pokuna Theater. Sanath was appointed to prestigious Chancellor of the University of Visual and performing Arts in year 2016 by President Maithripala Sirisena following the demise of Pandit WD Amaradewa. On 12 October 2017, an Inquisitive and Aesthetic Book titled “Sinhala Sangeethaye Sanath Nandasiri Sanathana Gee Miyasi’ written by Yapa Bandara Seneviratne was released at a ceremony at the Colombo Public Library Auditorium.  

On 24 February 2018, a ceremony was held at the Western Province Aesthetic University Resort Auditorium to pay homage to Prof. Sanath Nandasiri with a concert titled ‘Ninnada 2018 Thunpath Rata Swara Dehana’. During the event, the then President Maithripala Sirisena presented special honorary award to Sanath Nandasiri. On 4 September 2019, a collection of 100 lyrics and chords of Nandasiri’s songs titled “Rasanandaya”, was released at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.] In the same year, he was honoured with Janabhimani  ‘Honorary Award’ at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall. 

 From the year 1967 Sanath had been a sought after playback singer been selected by many directors of films.Commencing from year 1967 he had sung as playback singer in Sadol Kandulu,Hari Maga,Hanthane Kathawa,Thevetha, Samana Kumariyo,Hathara Wate,Sihina Lowak ,Ahas Gawwa,Duleeka,Sihina lowak,Ahas Gauwa,Diyamanthi,Nedeyo,Pembara Madhu, Mage Ran Putha.Vishmaya.Jeewana Kandulu,Hingana Kolla, Wasanthaye Dawasak,Doctor Susantha,Senasuma, Ajasaththa,Miss Mallika, Karate Joe, Thunhiri Mal,Ranmaleege Wasanawa,Rosy,Mihidum Salu,Asipatha Mamai, Mangala Thegga,Viragaya etc the list goes on  and on. 

Sanath during his teenage days had loved music had appreciated the singing of stars like Rukmani Devi,Mohideen Beg ,WD Amaradeva,MS Fernando,Dharmadasa and Latha Walpola.This was proved when he was invited to “Ma Novena Mama” of TV Derana program when he had to sing seven songs of other singers.He had no hesitation in selecting songs sung by them.All know that Sanath possesses a very high sense of humour. He did say at this program in December 2016 that he had selected mostly some songs he loved not heard by many. Some had been only in gramophone discs.One was “Pawan Susum Rali” sung as a duet by Devananda Waidyasekera and Indrani Perera,”Araliya Mal Pethi” a duet of Latha and Dharmadasa Walpola, “Maha Wessata Pera nimithi” sung by WD Amaradewa to his own music composition, to the lyrics of KDK Dharmawardena.Sanath did say humbly that he was very nervous when he knew the song was to be sung by the legendary WD Amaradewa.Sanath very modestly said that he is singing these songs of others not to tell he is a smart singer but as it was necessary to comply to the format of the program,One other song he selected was of that of Priya Suriyasena when he had heard one day at MS Fernando’s place to pick him up ,the ‘song was “Sora Sesa Niva “  to the music composition of MK Rocksamy, One more song was of MS Fernando which he had never sung on stage “Seetha Sulang Awata hammannai” music and lyrics also by him.During this program Sanath added he is a competent driver having driven all over Sri Lanka like Jaffna ,Trincomalee,Batticaloa etc sans any mishaps.One day however he had been driving Malkanthi’s car in Maradana area when a trishaw driver was almost knocking his car.He had allowed him to overtake ,while overtaking he had said “Mage passa balanna” which read ‘Waradak Uwanam Sama wenna”.During this program when questioned about how many songs he had sung.He said prior to this show he had wanted to know details of about the songs he had selected. The then Director General had sent the songs to be sung in a disc for his perusal.Had also said in the internet there are 1133 songs of his at the SLRC song library stored accurately and efficiently by Ranjan Silva.It is very appropriate to state the names of lyricists  who had provided lyrics to so many of his songs V.I.Z.,Dharmaratne Perera,Ajantha Ranasinghe,KDK Dharmawardena,Priyananda Wijesundara,Buddadasa Galapaththy,Karunaratne Abeysekera,  Madawala Ratnayake,Dharmasiri Gamage.It is pertinent to mention when Vijaya Kumaratunga and Ravindra Randeniya first appeared in cinema the playback singing had been of Sanath.  

Incidentally Sanath’s birthday falls on the 15th February the identical date when the national television SLBC was inaugurated in year 1982.In most annual celebrations Sanath and Malkanthi are also invited. On the opening day on 15th February 1982 he had to sing a song “Geetha Mage Geetha” the lyrics of Gunasena Galapaththi  paying tribute to his wife which was reminisced by Sanath at a recent celebration when he and Malkanthi were invited to grace the occasion. At one television interview Sanath lamented that Malkanthi never uses a wrist watch hence she at times get late to attend to  functions. Twice when Sanath was invited to sign as attesting witness of his pupils weddings had arrived late.It is learnt that many students when tying their nuptial knots invariable invite Sanath as attesting witness which honour he accepts happily. 

Lately in year 2019 Sanath and daughter participated in ‘Leya Saha Laya ‘where a prominent vocalist sings with son or daughter ,a popular program of TV derana presented by Jayantha Chandrasiri produced by Dilantha Chinthaka Gamplath ,music was provided by Ananda Perera led ‘Siha Shakthi ‘band. Sanath accompanied daughter to sing all the songs as duets..Sanath sang “Eetha Epita”,”Thun Man Handiya”, “Nube Suwanda Pirunu Punchi kambare”.Despite Sanath contributing to music compositions for well over five hundred songs ha had sung to the music composition of his pupil Nimal Jayakody who is presently a music examiner in Kurunegala area.What a gesture by Sanath after which he had said by this it was a triumph to Nimal as well as to him , but this gesture would not have been made by other vocalists. Jayantha Chandrasiri affirmed that as Sanath sang songs with lyrics that suited the periods passing decades all his songs ha become popular.Also the themes of many songs were of true incidents. Also it was said during the program it was added that one day Sanath was surprised to see Karunaratne Abeysekera visiting his home for the first time.The reason was that he had brought some lyrics to compose music and sing a song.. It had contained the meaning about a demise of a person and  about ones  grave. The song was the last sung by Sanath containing Karunaratne Abeysekera’s lyrics prior to his death which had occurred two weeks after the meeting. The rest of the three songs that was sung by Sanath Anuradha duo were “Adare samarium”, Mahada Veena” which was a composition of music for a song while in Bhathkande Lucknow copied with Sinhalese lyrics, and ” Dedunne Pata Pata”.During this program Anuradha revealed that even before leaving school she has had many songs for her but sans an official launching. Sanath added that Anuradha is the whole world of the Sanath Malkanthi duo as the only child.It is Anuradha who attends to all Sanath’s personal work who hardly attend to any domestic work other his music work. 

In the contents of the foregoing Sangeeth Nipun ,Chancellor of the University visual  and performing arts  Sanath Nandasiri is perhaps is the most iconic musician in Sri Lanka superseding many colleagues who had contributed to Sri Lanka music in classical, films in many genres pop, soul, rhythm, and blues,Indian classical music.The contribution made to our music is colossus since year 1955 to date,It is hard to believe that another musician ,vocalist, composer of music in the comparable calibre of  Sanath Nandasiri would emerge even in centuries. All his fans while thanking for all his prowess and contributions in delighting so many audiences making them spellbound would wish him good health and longevity. 

Sunil Thenabadu

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